The recent treatment of the Connacht women’s team has shown how women continue to be disrespected in sport. On September 11, Connacht took on Leinster in the final round of the inter-pro series at Energia Park in Donnybrook.
Prior to their inter-pro series game against Leinster, the Connacht team were forced to change in disgraceful conditions outside beside rats. Due to Covid-19 guidelines, only elite sports teams have access to changing facilities. As women’s rugby is an amateur sport in Ireland, there was no plan B.
Footage of the horrifying conditions was shared on social media and condemned by many online. While this incident was shocking and should never happen again, I must ask you; is it surprising? The sad reality is that if the footage had not been shared on social media, this would not be talked about.
The horrifying treatment of women in Ireland is extended to the sporting field, despite the sporting success of women in Ireland. Connacht back-row Paul Boyle condemned the incident in a recent interview admitting that “we spoke about it in our changing room and said we wouldn’t put up with it. It wasn’t good enough.”
That is the reality of this situation. Would it happen in the men’s game? If the Connacht men’s team had turned up to these conditions, the game might have been postponed, and the consequences would have been, in my view, astronomical.
This summer has shown the success that can be achieved through the proper support and funding. This inter-pro series was shown by TG4, known for their excellent coverage of provincial rugby. The high standard of games was enjoyed by many fans and showed what women’s provincial rugby has to offer.
However, despite Ireland’s hugely successful sporting triumphs by women recently, this incident can be seen as a massive step backwards. From Leona Maguire’s heroics in the Solheim Cup, to Katie Harrington’s inspirational performances to win Gold in Tokyo, Ireland has produced some amazing women in sport.
However, how little they are highlighted is becoming a worrying trend in Ireland. Katie Taylor is the prime example of this. Arguably the greatest female boxer in the world, the lack of hype in Ireland in the build up to her fights shocks me. To find the most in depth build up and promotion, boxing fans in Ireland often have to look at journalists like Ariel Helwani for the best coverage.
For the next generation of sportswomen to succeed in Ireland, they must be shown that Ireland cares about women. While progress has been made in Ireland, such as repealing the 8th amendment, our country still has a long way to go when it comes to women’s rights. If young girls aspiring to be athletes in the future can’t see women being respected on the biggest stage, how will they be inspired to follow in their footsteps?